One nice aspect to "Shall We Kiss First" is that the drama doesn't waste a lot of time stringing us along with important revelations while insisting on maintaining the ignorance of the main characters. Simply being confronted by people who want to talk about his horrible secrets is enough to force Moo-han into letting his guard down. We actually see Moo-han legitimately frightened by the threat of Soon-jin leaving. Note the quivering in his voice, and the highly abstract nature of the movie he watches, which is only identified by film company.
This is, of course, because the movie does not actually matter. And indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone who has only a month left to live caring very much about movies. Moo-han does not actually care about the movie. It's just an excuse to be with Soon-jin where, rather critically, they are not socially allowed to talk to each other. Even in silence, Moo-han's main motivation is simply to avoid the sheer desperation of loneliness.
The attitudes characters have toward their lives are increasingly easy to parse the more we see of their sad disparate experiences. Observe how Kyeong-soo overreacts to his daughter playing with something weird. Overreacting is just normal Kyeong-soo behavior. Then you remember, oh yeah, his other daughter died in similarly horrible circumstances. Kyeong-soo lives in fear of underreacting again. That's (one reason) why he's so overinvolved with stuff that isn't even any of his business.
Mi-ra and her husband In-woo (played by Kim Sung-soo) are also taking on a much more proactive role in the story for similar reasons. The discovery that they cannot have children has led Mi-ra and In-woo to better appreciate the people in their lives right now, even when this appreciation comes coupled with anger. I liked In-woo's sheer dumb shock upon learning about Moo-han's death sentence, especially upon realizing he was failing to interpret Moo-han's previous comments literally enough.
Then right after that we get more serious wondering as to why Moo-han is acting the way he is, and if there's more to his attitude shift than just melancholy over his impending mortality. As it turns out Moo-han appears to have been drowning in regret even before actually finally meeting Soon-jin in a formal context, and appears ready to atone for his sins. Well, some of them anyway. Better late than never I guess. Although who knows if anyone else, particularly Soon-jin, will see the situation that way.
Review by William Schwartz
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Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Shall We Kiss First" Episodes 23-24"
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